Eric Lawson, an actor who symbolized smoking’s rugged masculinity during the late 1970s as the Marlboro Man, has come to represent something else entirely: the long-term dangers of cigarettes.
Lawson died Jan. 10 in his California home of respiratory failure due to the chronic lung disease COPD, the Associated Press reports
. He was 72.
Lawson is the third actor who has pitched Marlboro cigarettes as the iconic character to die of a disease that’s been linked to smoking. David Millar died of emphysema in 1987, and David McLean died of lung cancer in 1995.
Lawson’s wife, Susan, said he continued to smoke until his COPD diagnosis, even though the actor appeared in a series of anti-smoking commercials, in which he was a parody of the famous Marlboro man character, in the 1990s.
”He knew the cigarettes had a hold on him. He knew, yet he still couldn't stop,” Susan Lawson said.
Philip Morris USA, the makers of Marlboro cigarettes, and its parent company Altria Group, haven’t publicly responded
to the news of Lawson’s death, though Philip Morris does have a link to a page detailing the health issues smoking causes on its home page
. It doesn’t have a Twitter or Facebook presence.
The term “quit smoking” was trending on Yahoo on Monday morning, though it isn’t clear whether that was in reference to Lawson or to a coincidental New York Times article
about the topic.
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At the very least, some Twitter users were making the connection between the news of Larson’s death and the push for people to quit smoking.